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Sinus congestion self–care

Sinus congestion

If you have a sinus headache, it means your sinuses (the mucous membranes of your nose) have become swollen or clogged. Your sinuses are lined with a membrane – similar to that on the inside of your nose – which keeps them moist and produces mucous. When germs settle and grow on this surface, the surface swells and begins to produce too much mucous. It's the pressure from the swelling inside your sinuses that causes the headache. If you have a sinus headache, the pain will be in your face and forehead – and sometimes behind or between your eyes.

  • it can be dull or severe
  • often the pain is worse in the morning and improves by the afternoon
  • the pain may be worse when you bend your head forward
  • it can feel worse on cool, damp days

You may have a fever with a sinus infection. Other signs are mucous coming out of your nose that is an unusual colour (red, yellow or green) or that smells foul. The average duration of most sinus infections is 21/2 weeks

Self–care when you have sinus congestion

Treatment of a sinus congestion involves helping your sinuses drain and treating any infection.

  • inhaling steam or mist from a hot shower, or putting moisture in the air with a vaporizer, often relieves the clogging
  • you can get nasal sprays or pills that unclog sinuses (called 'nasal decongestants') from a pharmacy. The sprays usually work better than the pills. Use sprays as directed by the pharmacist
  • smokers should stop smoking and avoid other people's smoke, and other irritants in the air
  • try not to lean over, and use an extra pillow to raise your head in bed to relieve pressure
  • get plenty of rest
  • drink lots of fluids- water, fruit juice, soups, herb teas
  • let your College CCL/warden or flatmates/friends know you are unwell
  • warm compresses to your face may relieve pain. You can get painkillers from a pharmacy – but make sure you read the instructions and precautions carefully
  • practice good hand hygiene to reduce the spread of infections
  • consider taking a day or two off lectures/work to reduce spread and to help your recovery

When to see your doctor

Most sinus congestion symptoms last up to 2 weeks and you probably won’t need to see a doctor. However, you should see your doctor if you get any of these symptoms with your sinus congestion symptoms

  • your sinus pain doesn’t go away after 2 weeks or if it gets worse
  • you have sinus pain and a fever, or foul-smelling mucous from your nose
  • any pain, redness or swelling on one side of your cheek, forehead or around your eye
  • change in vision
  • a temperature of 38.6°C or higher that lasts more than 2 days and/or a shaking chill
  • a headache that lasts several days
  • if your lips, skin or nails look blue, or you’re feeling confused, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible

Meningitis

Meningitis is a bacterial disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis. There are various groups of bacteria including groups A, B, C, Y and W.

  • 1-2 people in 10 who survive have long term complications
  • 1-2 people out of every 10 will die

Those most at risk are:

  • adolescents and young adults aged between 15-19 years
  • smokers
  • those living in residential colleges and crowded accommodation
  • binge drinking
  • having another respiratory condition eg influenza
  • having a condition affecting the immune system
  • Māori and Pacific ethnicity

Symptoms of meningitis can develop suddenly and include:

  • a high fever
  • headache
  • sleepiness
  • confusion
  • abdominal pain
  • joint and muscle pains.
  • a stiff neck
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting
  • a rash consisting of reddish-purple pin-prick spots or bruises that don’t fade with pressure

What to do       

  • if you or your friend/ family are worried you are seriously ill, get medical attention straight away or call an ambulance by dialing 111
  • say what the symptoms are
  • you can also call Healthline free on 0800 611 116, 24 hours a day – even if you have already been seen by a health professional
  • vaccination reduces the risk and is very effective – For more info www.immune.org.nz

NOTE: Meningitis ACWY vaccination is free for 13 to 25 year old residents in college accommodation

Useful contacts

  • Student Health
    Tel 0800 479 821
    Open Mon–Fri 8:30- 5pm
    Wed 9:45am start
    Evenings 5pm to 8:30pm semester only
  • Healthline – nurse advice 24/7
    Tel 0800 611 116
  • Or go to
    • Dunedin Urgent Doctor and Accident Centre – 18 Filleul Street  8am–10pm
    • Emergency Department( emergencies only) Dunedin Hospital- Great King Street, Dunedin